On her third album Deep Down, vocalist Dana Salzman presents herself as a premiere eclectic artist, delivering a mix of jazz, funk, and hip-hop. Throughout the 16-track album, Salzman’s musicianship shines through both her nuanced pipes as well as her thoughtful arrangements. A trained pianist, under the tutelage of her mother (a notable Russian pianist), as well as the recipient of a degree in jazz from the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, Salzman definitely has no shortage of musical knowledge. Besides her formal background though, Salzman also possesses that natural music intuition, which is apparent throughout Deep Down. An enjoyable listen from start to finish, Deep Down is a musical gift of which everyone should partake.
The bright spots are abundant for Salzman. Opener “Joy” (featuring Valentino) definitely sets the tone of Deep Down, with its pronounced jazz cues and specifically its embrace of the electric piano. Tasteful urban synths enhance the overall timbre. For the nerdy, perceptive listener (HA!) the timbrel contrast with the use of piano (acoustic as opposed to electric patch) following Valentino’s guest verse is an incredibly thoughtful one. Speaking of Valentino, another sound musical contrast is vocally between him and Salzman. “Joy” may not even be the best track from Deep Down but examined microscopically, there is a wealth of musical excellence to behold as a listener.
“All For You” is a definite highlight, finding Salzman embracing both her singing voice as well as her hip-hop side. Regardless whether she is singing or rapping, Salzman’s agile, rhythmic vocals are a pro. The crossover between soul, jazz, and hip-hop could’ve been an epic fail in others’ hands, but Salzman makes it work out magnificently. The chorus isn’t what might be called ‘deep’ lyrically, but it definitely unifies the song: “This is all, this is all, this is all for you / day and night / give my all, give my all, give it all for you / love you right.” Throw in some scatting and a hip vamp on “rather be with you tonight baby” and “All For You” is loaded.
“I’m Ready” finds Salzman collaborating with Rappin’ 4-Tay and Samuelle Prater with respectable results. Sensual sounding backing vocals definitely enhance this ‘romantic’ number of which Salzman states “I’m ready, ready to go deep with you / I’m ready / what you wanna do?” Better yet is “Because Of You (live)”, one of several live cuts to grace the album. Like later proceeding live cuts “Hunger (live)”, “Sometimes (live)”, and “Rollercoaster (live)”, the atmosphere truly captures the singer at her musical peak. While live authenticity is truly hard if not impossible to capture even on a live recording that has been released via CD or digital formats, the listener still gets a good idea and feel of what these performances were like in their original setting. That is definitely further testament to the level of musicianship that Salzman possesses.
Like several of the live cuts, there are also studio versions. “Rollercoaster”, a standout, first appears in studio form, once more featuring Rappin’ 4-Tay and Valentino. Opening with a level of mysteriousness, a sensual vibe is established. If the musical backdrop itself didn’t signal this sensual nature, the lyrics certainly confirm it. The chorus obviously has the bedroom in mind: “Ah, put your body on me.” That said, it is Valentino’s line from his guest verse that is even more suggestive, if cleverly so: “Your body is a lock, you’re giving me the key / it’s telling me that this is what you really need.” Ooh la la, Ooh la la!
In between two live cuts, “Again” has more of a contemporary R&B sound compared to other cuts. One of the notable moments is when there is a touch of reggae, which perfectly fits within the song. Worthy of individual isolation is “Sometimes (live)”, a cut that begins deceptively slow with its pianistic intro, but transforms into a groovy, complete soulful performance. Salzman as always is on her game, but she isn’t alone in her artistry. A fine electric guitar solo proves to be one of many sound musical touches. Later on, “Real Thing”, again featuring Samuelle Prater delivers a duet with extraordinary vocal chemistry. Additionally, having those jazzy piano harmonies don’t hurt.
“Fill It Up” adds some trumpet to the mix, another example of how timbre and timbrel contrast play a vital role to the success of this album. The bass line, yet another instrumental specific, also pleases the ear given its activeness. Following a feistily titled “Instant Climax”, “Mountain” should appeal to those who love the six-eight meter/groove of gospel music. Slow and relaxed, the bluesy “Mountain” is yet another side of Salzman that contributes to the complete package that is Deep Down. Vocally, one of the best moments is when Salzman ascends into her upper register; now that’s swag! Even the tracks not mentioned have ample redeeming qualities, with all deserved of their inclusion on this LP.
Ultimately, Deep Down is a fine album that appeals to multiple musical bases. There is very little to quibble about, but clocking in at over an hour in duration, nitpicking might suggest that the effort is too long. Otherwise, Salzman flexes her musical abilities magnificently, impressing much more often than not. If you have never heard of Salzman or have failed to check her out, you should; she’s the total package with ample things to offer. As for Deep Down – well – it receives my blessing.
“All For You”; “Because of You (live)”; “Rollercoaster”; “Sometimes (live)”; “Real Thing”; “Mountain”